When Andrew Ware, a parishioner at St Monica’s, Bootle describes his summer trip to Paris as "something to remember forever", he is not exaggerating.
After all, there are not many people who get to cycle down the Champs-Élysées to the Eiffel Tower – and even fewer who reach the French capital by pedal power all the way from London. The 43-year-old is a director of Hayes and Finch, the Liverpool-based supplier of church furnishings, and he undertook the four-day ride to raise funds for Nugent Care, which is his company’s charity partner for 2015.
He has previously cycled from Liverpool to Chester and abseiled down the Anglican Cathedral but he surpassed those efforts with his 300-mile journey which raised over £1,400 for Nugent Care. Summing up the adventure, he said: "It was 300 really hard miles, with some pretty gruesome hills, some spectacular views, moods both up and down, rain, cold, sun but good company, a brilliant adventure and something to remember forever."
Andrew set off from Blackheath Common in London on 30 July as one of a group of 72 cyclists, who cycled the 80 miles down to Dover and boarded a cross-Channel ferry for France. Day 1, he admits, was the "hardest day, with not being sure of the pace and not knowing anyone, and some of the Kent hills were a real challenge." After the relief of reaching Dover, he had to do it all again the next day. "It was hard getting back on the bike after the first day with my legs still sore from the day before and knowing there were 80 miles to the finish line. In fact the first ten miles each day seemed to take forever and I’d doubt whether I could actually achieve the finish line."
Day 2 brought another 80-mile ride from Calais to Arras, before on Day 3, Andrew reached Compiegne via a stop at Thiepval, site of the Memorial to the Missing for those who died in the Battle of the Somme. If his legs were "beginning to ache" by that stage, he could be forgiven having ridden 240 miles in three days. There was still one final push needed, though, on 2 August, with the 60-mile final leg to Paris – but it was worth it for the thrill of finally reaching the Champs-Élysées.
"Watching the Tour de France and knowing we were riding the same cobbled street and joining our own peloton to reach the Eiffel Tower was a huge highlight," he added. "Reaching the Eiffel Tower made all the months of hard training worthwhile. Seeing the finish line after four days of tough cycling was the feeling of achievement I had been looking forward to."